nullstream weblog - January 2005



January 29, 2005 10:49 PM PST

Ok, time for a new photoblog post. Hate to see the Thailand post off the front page, but we are still blessed from the banner.

Terragen is a freeware 3D landscape generation and rendering application for Windows. It was designed to render actual USGS and planetary data. After reading about the data from the probe landing on Titan being rendered by Terragen, I decided to check it out. I'm an old fan of Kai's Power Tools and Bryce, which was an exceptional landscape based rendering tool.

The interface to Terragen is pretty rough, but it sure can generate beautiful pictures. In many ways Bryce back in 1996 was more advanced in terms of 3D procedural textures and solid modeling tools, but Terragen seems more scientific for some reason. The cloud and water modeling is excellent as are the shadows. All in all, Terragen is a great tool for rendering landscapes, and doesnt (yet) try to be as artsy as Bryce. Don't expect to throw together scenes like these your first time out!

Continue reading "Terragen"...

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Sun Twitches


January 26, 2005 10:34 PM PST

Sun has announced the launch of OpenSolaris. This is their answer to Linux, and will be released under a 'CDDL' license that is much friendlier than the GPL. They still plan to brand and sell the proprietary version of Solaris (building on the open source developement). They don't have the code up on the site yet, (just a single module), but it is planned for the end of this month. Additionally they have opened some 1,670 patents to open-source developers. I’m getting a feeling of deja vu here. Feels like netscape all over again. You can read more about this here.

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Google Video Beta

January 25, 2005 11:26 AM PST

I just checked out the new Google Video Beta. They are currently scanning and archiving the closed captioning of current shows along with some snapshots. They also link to 'more' information about the show including future air times. Hmm, I'm not sure where they are going with this, but I can think of where I want them to go.

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More Cringley Mac Mini Predictions

January 21, 2005 01:37 PM PST

Paul pointed us to Cringley's latest mac mini predictions.

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Comment Spam

Nullstream Site

January 19, 2005 05:24 AM PST

Google, Yahoo, MSN, MovableType and others have agreed to not boost search rankings to sites with links marked with the rel="nofollow" attribute set. While this doesn't physically prevent comments on blogs from being created with links back to sites, it does prevent them from doing any good on search rankings. I'm very impressed to see these major search providers working together, as well as the major blogging software packages all jumping on this standard. An elegant solution that everyone can get on board with.

I've updated the site to mark all links within comments with this attribute automatically, so only links within the main posts will do anything to boost search rankings of sites. I believe this also closes the door to trackback links boosting the value of various blogs.

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Comcast Speed Boost?


January 17, 2005 01:17 AM PST

Ars-Technica is reporting that there may be another speed boost coming from Comcast in the first quarter. If they are correct, users will be boosted from 3mb / 256kb to 4mb / 384kb. Like last time this will be with no price increase - and all it took was a power cycle on the cable modem. According to the article premium service users ($10 more than normal price) will be boosted to 6Mb / 768kb!!! Hey I didn't know they had reduced the price of the premium service to just $10 more. Last time I checked it was almost $100.00 a month. I hope this is true, there is no such thing as too much bandwidth.

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Hacker Tales


January 12, 2005 10:27 PM PST

Saw this article on SecurityFocus. Very interesting/fun reading:
Hacker Penetrates T-Mobile Systems. The article linked from this one about the guy selling Microsoft source code for $20 is pretty interesting too. I wonder how long it would have taken them to find out about the leak if the guy hadn't tried to sell the info? I'm sure there are a lot smarter people with this kind of access that don't.

Lessons to learn: If you hack a computer system, don't try to sell the information. If you have to brag about it, use a new, anonymous account each time, and never, ever, agree to meet up with people through their "proxy server" to prove it. And if you sell the source code to one guy and he "loses it"... Don't do it again. LOL. Just enjoy Paris Hilton's phonecam pics.

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iMac LC (OK, Mac mini)

Cool Tech

January 11, 2005 11:30 AM PST

Ok, at our first glance it has beat our negativity and lives up to expectations. Very, very interesting product from Apple.

Highlights: $499, Available Jan. 22nd Expandable memory DVI Silent PC Anodized Aluminum Case (Not Plastic!) Quicktime MPEG-4 Standard support No single button mouse

Remember, there are very popular firewire TV tuner/capture solutions for the Mac, so this makes a DVR type device possible.

I like how they don't even try to pretend they're the only game in town - "just set us on top of your PC and port your software." Very cool attitude.

Perfect for Programmers
Set a space-saving Mac mini atop your workstation PC and add a KVM switch to share keyboard, monitor and mouse. Mac OS X includes free developer tools for Mac, UNIX and Java. Test out a Mac version of your latest creation, instantly. Pretty soon you’ll be using the Mac full-time, with that PC relegated to the testbed.

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The Way Back Machine

Cool Tech

January 11, 2005 10:03 AM PST

Most of you are aware of my love / hate relationship with Netflix. I was an early adopter of this service and excluding the 6 month period where we were broken up and were 'seeing other people', my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Lately I've been really amazed at the trend to release old TV shows on DVD.

Continue reading "The Way Back Machine"...

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Free Online Technical Books


January 10, 2005 02:46 PM PST

I just rediscovered TechBooksForFree. They have a pretty good selection of free online technical books including Eugene Blanchard's Introduction to Data Communications. As with many free resources, mileage may vary.
I'm always amazed by just how much web related information discover and then delete from memory.

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January 10, 2005 12:23 AM PST

Or, moments of extreme nerdity in Paul's life.

What was your first exposure to TEH INTARWEB ?

In the beginning...

Continue reading "net.history"...

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HP Bluetooth Headphones


January 9, 2005 01:00 AM PST

LobotYes as part of the new year I am fully embracing the wireless lifestyle. I’m just plain tired of wires. Since J brought it up, here is a mini-review of the HP Bluetooth headphones also known as “Lobot” phones.

Continue reading "HP Bluetooth Headphones"...

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John Lobot


January 8, 2005 06:55 PM PST

LobotIf John had his way, we'd all be walking around like Lobot, Lando Calrissian's right hand man. Bluetooth earphones with built in controls connected to a wireless PDA are just the first step. ;-)

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Secure Digital + USB2 Card

Cool Tech

January 6, 2005 07:06 PM PST

Lots of new announcements from CES this week, but this one from SanDisk is so simple and useful. I can't believe how small memory components are getting. You can use this SD card in your camera, and then just take it to any computer and plug it into the USB port to back up the data, or share pictures. This would come in so handy when traveling and visiting friends who want copies of photos, or offloading a full card in a net cafe and burning them to CD. I'm all for getting rid of those 7-in-1 flash card readers!
Here's a review with more pictures.

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January 2, 2005 03:02 PM PST

Last week we built a Small Form Factor AMD64 machine. AMD64 is really at not only the peak of performance, but also of price. Intel based machines have really been taking a beating this year. Intel tried to add the x64-64 extensions to their high-end P4s, but the results were super expensive and performance worse than AMD's standard solution. The AMD64 chips are also much cooler, making them a better solution for small form factor, silent PC and overclocking.

So much is written about 64-bit machines being able to address more ram. But for some reason, marketers haven't pushed the primary home user advantage - faster math operations. Operations on 64 bit integers bit integers happen natively, giving up to 4x performance over standard 32 bit architectures on operations such as multiplying two 64 bit ints to a 128 bit int. Intel's SSE2 extensions do allow 64 bit operations, but these must be hand coded in assembly. 64 bit compilers will automatically take advantage of the increased precision. Also, since the registers are all larger, the register space is effectively doubled, providing much faster access to common variables than the slower, more expensive cache.

The cool thing is, AMD64 is the best performing PC architecture, but we haven't seen its full potential. Until Windows XP x64 is released (scheduled mid-2005), we won't see the OS, or any applications compiled for the new processor. That means that we should see a significant boost in applications once the Microsoft compiler for x86-64 is available.

Here's a great overview of AMD64 performance. To view the charts (in the black squares), you must select the text - there's a bug in their HTML code. Tests were done on 32 and 64 bit linux on the same processor, showing the massive gains in 64 bit mode. Also for comparison, they completely trounce the "equivalent" P4 3.2ghz. Example:

CPURSA 1024 bit digital signatures per second
P4 3.2GHZ147.2
AMD64 3200+ 32 bit mode207.3
AMD64 3200+ 64 bit mode913.8
Get ready for huge performance improvements to game engines and audio/video encoding when XP x64 is available.

Read on for the specs, photo and current pricing of this bad boy. Continue reading "SFF AMD64"...

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Shopping Spree

Cool Tech

January 2, 2005 04:07 AM PST

On Friday, I went for a walk around Union Square in San Francisco, which is 4 blocks from where I live, to get some fresh air and lunch despite the rain. I lived in Seattle for 3.5 years and never had an umbrella; it rains for 2 days in California and I buy the first umbrella I find. Anyways, I ended up buying the following things:

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Coding Style: Part, the first


January 2, 2005 03:04 AM PST

Over the years, I've encountered a number of coding styles from different companies, books and open source projects. I find that I am really picky about coding consistency, and that I get annoyed with code that looks ugly.

Therefore, a brief summary of stuff that I find annoying:

Continue reading "Coding Style: Part, the first"...

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